Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review

Is Samsung's latest phablet the best yet?

What is a hands on review?
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  • Beautiful screen
  • Strong snapper
  • Loads of power


  • S Pen is questionable
  • It's really expensive
  • TouchWiz not for everyone

Here we go again, another massive Samsung handset. The Galaxy Note series may not be everyone's favourite, but it sure is successful and the Note 4 is its best instalment yet.

The Samsung Galaxy Note was the first device that made us take phablets seriously. With its larger screen and productivity tools aiming to help us consume, create and share content quicker, it set the benchmark for those with a liking for the larger things in life.

No surprise then that the Koreans have stuck with a winning formula for the latest version - the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Following on from the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, improvements come in five lovely flavours with upgrades for the screen, camera, multi-tasking, battery life and voice functions.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Display

The Note 4 boasts a super sharp 5.7” Quad HD Super AMOLED display with 500 ppi pixel density.

Up close video playback and images look impressively sharp with good contrast and rich colours that’ll make this a good option for entertainment and gaming as well as work.

The adaptive display means the screen should hold visibility well in a good range of light conditions although we only got to see it in action under the glare of some Berlin conference room lights.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Camera and Photo Features

In addition to a 16 megapixel rear camera, the Note 4 packs a 3.7 megapixel front facing camera with an F1.9 aperture default 90 degree wide angle lens that claims to let in up to 60 per cent more light and has added selfie smarts.

It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a smartphone or a phablet, these days if you don’t help people taking a good selfie you’re nowhere. Luckily the Note 4 has this covered with 120-degree ‘wide selfie’ mode.

Much like snapping a panorama picture but this time of your own face, the selfie mode lets you get more of you and your surroundings into a single shot. A neat trick if the groupie is your snap of choice.

To make it all that little bit easier the rear-mounted heart rate sensor also acts as a trigger for snapping selfies and there’s optical image stabilisation there too to ensure good pictures from even the shakiest hands.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Features

So what’s new for the ‘it’s not a stylus’ S Pen? Well for a kick off, the Samsung super intelligent digi-pen has a new improved responsiveness that enables new handwriting features like a calligraphy pen and fountain pen.

Samsung has doubled the press sensitivity, enabled the S-Pen to read the speed, tilt and pressure of your virtual pen strokes more effectively. The results are effortless, free flowing hand writing that actually feels easier than it would if you were using the real thing. It’s the most impressive digital writing experience we’ve had to date.

To add a little more to the writing experience Samsung has also buddied up with Mont Blanc to create the first set of screen writers, the Mont Blanc Pic and the e-StarWalker.

For those who prefer to record rather than scribble notes, a small but impressive new feature is the Note’s new directional voice recording.

Three built-in microphones let you capture audio for up to eight people, remove background noise and isolate individual voices in playback.

Meanwhile the humble PC mouse makes a re-appearance in S-Pen form too. Recreating the left click actions you’d find on a mouse to select and copy words or pictures. A quick click of the button on the S-Pen enables you to select everything on a page that you draw a marquee around and it’s all shareable to other Note 4 apps.

Capturing, editing and organising real world scribblings is another trick the Note now has up its sleeve. With the new Snap Note function you can take photographs of notes on real world objects, let’s say on a whiteboard for example, and the Note will automatically adjust the angle to flatten the content and then let you erase the individual pen strokes, drawings or words you don’t need.

You can then clip and collate different cuttings, making it easier to capture information that’s been created outside of the virtual world of the Note.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Design and Build

In all honesty the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 looks much like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It comes with a very similar signature texture back in four supposedly fashion-friendly colours - frosted white, charcoal black, bronze gold and blossom pink.

From a design perspective, if you liked the Note 3 you’ll probably like the Note 4.

Samsung has added a cut metal frame and 2.5D glass that first appeared in the Galaxy S3 but has been toughened up. The Note 4 weighs in at 176g and is 8.5mm thin.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Battery Life

The Note 4 packs a 3220mAh battery and now features the ultra power saving mode that we first saw in the Samsung Galaxy S5, giving you the option to pair back your Note to all but the very basic functions to extend its battery life.

Added to that there’s new fast charging, that claims to give you up to 50 per cent battery inside 30 minutes – that’s allegedly 30 per cent quicker than the charge time we’ve seen on previous devices.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Verdict

It’s still a big phone so if you don’t like big phones this isn’t for you but with a range of clever new tricks, the Note 4 is probably the best productivity tool you can put fit in your pocket right now.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 release date: October 2014

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.